High Number of Cyclospora Infections in 2019
Cyclosporiasis, an infection that negatively impacts the intestinal system, has been reported in high numbers in the previous few months. Nearly 600 cases of infection have been reported in more than 30 states. Most often related to overseas travel, the sickened individuals have reportedly not traveled abroad at all, much less to the regions with epidemic levels of this parasitic infection. Public health officials are confident that the individuals are indeed infected with Cyclospora due to laboratory testing and confirmation. These reported illnesses surfaced from early May to the middle of July. Of those reported ill, nearly 40 have been hospitalized but fortunately no deaths have occurred from the outbreak.
As public health officials work hand in hand to determine the cause of the recent surge, they have come across one cluster tied to conclusive evidence. Basil, shipped to multiple recipients across multiple states, from a specific distributor in Mexico, has been identified as the cause in one case. The leafy green herb, from a Mexican company called Siga Logistics de RL de CV of Morelas, Mexico, has been linked to the Cyclospora causing more than 130 illnesses. So far, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have identified links to this basil across 11 states reporting Cyclospora infections. Although this particular cluster has been linked to a single source, there are no clear answer to the hundreds of other cases acknowledged by the CDC. In some cases, there are small clusters pointing to specific restaurants and/or a single event, however, basil has not been determined as the culprit.
Historically, at least in the United States, infection is often linked to foods like fruits and vegetables. The infection occurs when the consumed produce has come into contact with infected stool. The cycle starts with infected individuals excreting stool containing ‘oocyst,’ contaminating the environment. The stool, after one to several weeks, becomes infectious and often enters the food chain. Once the infected food is consumed by an individual, they become ill and potentially re-start the cycle. This naturally occurring cycle demonstrates how direct human to human transmission is not possible. What does occur then, is a wider reaching contamination entering in to a food source, consumed by many.
As the investigation continues, health officials work to determine the sources of these infections and mitigate further illness. In the meantime, and until more is known, consumers can at minimum discontinue use of basil imported from the distributor Siga Logistics de RL de CV and any other basil in their possession from an unknown origin.